Liquorice licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra L.) is a perennial from the family of fabaceae.
Glycyrrhiza comes from the Greek words glykis – sweet, and rhiza – root. The first names of licorice, such as sweet root, sweet tree, malt root or malt testify to the particularly sweet taste of the plant, which the licorice root owes to the main component – glycyrrhizin. For medical purposes in late autumn or early spring, three or four year old shoots and plant roots are harvested.
The licorice root was known and valued several thousand years ago in China, where it was used as the main component of herbal preparations. In India, licorice was appreciated in antiquity, where to this day in a liquorice infusion bathing or pouring Buddha statue on the day commemorating his birth. Licorice was also described in ancient Greece and Rome. In Europe, the cultivation of licorice was initiated in the fifteenth century by the Benedictines. So what is the reason for such a high popularity of licorice and what health properties does it show?
Chemical composition of licorice
In the licorice root there are about 400 chemical components. Five groups of compounds can be mentioned here, such as flavonoids, triterpene saponins, coumarins, polysaccharides and essential oils.
The triterpene saponins include the glycyrinic acid (glycirizin) already mentioned, which gives the licorice root a sweet taste.
The liquorice root oil contains about 30 ingredients, min. linalool, tarragon, benzoic aldehyde, fenchon and furfuryl alcohol. In addition to these compounds in the licorice root can be found starch, gums, gums, sugars, mannitol, tannins, phytosterols and proteins and amino acids.
Health and healing properties of smooth licorice
The healing properties of licorice root are associated with the presence of compounds such as saponosides and flavonoids. Saponosides display min. expectorant, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects. The flavonoid compounds, on the other hand, have a direct effect on the bronchial and smooth muscle cells in the gastrointestinal tract.
Effects on the function of the digestive system
Positive effects of licorice root on the digestive system and alleviation of digestive disorders have been demonstrated. Thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, licorice has a regenerating effect on the mucous membrane of the stomach and intestines. Studies show that liquorice extracts can inhibit the growth of Helicobacter pylori bacteria, which are mainly responsible for peptic ulcer disease and gastric and duodenal cancer. Licorice supports the healing process of gastrointestinal ulcers , supports pancreatic secretion. Active compounds also prevent liver disease of the liver and protect it against the toxic effects of heavy metals.
The use of licorice is used in the auxiliary treatment of gastric and duodenal ulcers, SIBO (small intestinal bacterial growth syndrome), hypersensitivity of the large intestine and in conditions after gastrointestinal surgery, inflammation of the gastric mucosa and the risk of gastric cancer. The licorice extract also speeds up the regeneration of the intestinal mucosa and stomach after food poisoning or heartburn.
Effects on the respiratory system
Studies have shown that saponin compounds in the licorice root reduce the surface tension, which reduces the viscosity of mucus deposited in the airways. It stimulates the secretory activity of the mucous membranes of the upper respiratory tract and supports spontaneous movements of the ciliary epithelium. Licorice therefore has diastolic, cleansing, expectorant and secretolytic effects. It can be used as an aid in diseases of the upper respiratory tract, persistent cough, bronchitis and throat, asthma and hoarseness.
Effect on the endocrine system
The liquorice liquorice contains numerous phytoestrogens that have beneficial effects on the body. Their operation has been proven min. in prophylactic treatment of cardiovascular diseases and alleviating menopausal symptoms and premenstrual syndrome in women.
Studies have shown that glycyrrhizin present in licorice is an inhibitor of enzymes responsible for the breakdown of hormones such as adrenal and progesterone steroids.
According to some studies licorice can regulate the metabolism of estrogen, so it has a soothing effect on the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome in women (reduced mood, water retention or excessive appetite). Phytoestrogens contained in the licorice root are also used to alleviate the effects of osteoporosis, also postmenopausal in women.
Antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties
Licorice contained in the root glycyrrhizin promotes the formation of a natural antiviral compound in the human body – interferon. It inhibits the development of min. Type 1 herpes virus. Licorice has bacteriostatic, immunosuppressive and antifungal activity. Thanks to antibacterial properties, licorice extracts are used to fight tooth decay among children.
The use of licorice in cosmetics
Liquorice has moisturizing and soothing properties. It has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and supports the regeneration of the epidermis. It is used in the care of dry, dehydrated, sensitive, capillaries and acne skin, with psoriasis and atopic dermatitis. Licorice extracts are also used in the auxiliary treatment of dermatoses such as pemphigus or systemic lupus erythematosus.
The use of licorice in gastronomy
Liquorice is mainly used as a sweetener due to the 50 times greater sweetness of glycicirine from sucrose. It is used for the production of candies, jellies, drinks and juices. It is also used in flavoring beers and liqueurs.
In what form on the market can you find licorice?
Licorice and extracts are often sold in various forms. You can find on the market
• Decoction of liquorice root
• Licorice juice
• Dietary supplements – capsules, tablets
• Herbal teas with licorice
Taking high doses of licorice products for a long time may reduce urine output as well as sodium and chlorine ions, and cause swelling of hands, legs and face. Do not take liquorice for more than four weeks. Excess licorice can cause increased pressure, water retention in the body and dyspnoea and cardiac arrhythmia.
The contraindications of licorice use include
– kidney failure,
– pregnancy and breast-feeding
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